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Season's greetings from resident blogger Flannery

Hello, readers.

I don't know where you are right now — whether you're in Toronto, Calgary or St. Johns — but wherever you find yourself, I'm wishing you a very happy holiday.

I'm writing this post from my parents' house in a small village in eastern Ontario. I'm home for the holidays, and quite happily. I haven't been back for nearly a year and it definitely feels like time. My family doesn't have any special traditions at Christmas —no eggnog or orderly gift exchange on Christmas Eve for us.

There's only one constant at this time of year: we are always together. Proximity makes for several Hallmark-worthy moments, I can assure you. There's really nothing like a Christmas fight with all three of my siblings to kick-start the season and get the holiday blood flowing! Throw in a chorus of spoiled dogs in all shapes and sizes (there's fat, fatter and "morbese," a.k.a. morbidly obese) sprawled on every inch of available seating and you've got some idea what it's like.

On the bright side, there are several comfy dog beds scattered around the house for the comfort of the human residents. Did I mention the cats?

Then there's the weather. I'm looking outside the window and I'm seeing more snow and ice than is necessary to fulfill the requirements of a white Christmas, frankly. Anyone who has grown up in the frozen tundra of eastern Ontario understands this sensation. Winter is epic here. It's a dirge that goes on and on. Winter in Toronto is chick lit in comparison, a light dusting of powdered sugar designed to sell hats and mittens. I'm pitching Survivor: Ottawa Winter to Jeff Probst in the New Year.

I've wrapped all my gifts and I'm eagerly anticipating the reaction to what's underneath all that dollar-store wrapping paper. I've paid attention this year and I think I've got some pretty good surprises for my family. Books are often seen as the default I-didn't-know-what-to-get-you gift, but I couldn't disagree more. Over the years, I've been given some really wonderful books, ones I treasure and will always. These are the books I will never loan to friends (confession: I don't loan any of my books to friends!)

My favourite has to be a beautiful hardcover edition of James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It was a gift from my mother a few Christmases back. It was totally unexpected, though not undesired. I keep it with my favourite books, a special shelf that includes autographed copies of Martin Amis's Success and Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

I consider these last two books as nothing less than badges of courage. I was terrified to meet Martin Amis in the flesh. I was translucent with terror and barely croaked out a greeting. One day, I'll tell you about the most embarrassing moment of my life: the day I met Dave Eggers. Here's a sampling: I went purple and briefly forgot how to speak English. Grace under pressure is something I've never been able to put into action, especially in the presence of a writer I admire. Add good looks to the mix — have you seen Eggers? — and it's game over.

Take it easy this holiday. Crack a book, a joke or two and enjoy time with friends and family. I intend to do all three.

Happy holidays!

Flannery

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